Christian Research Institute

Is There a Biblical Distinction Between Dinosaurs and Dragons?

Young-earth creationists* often argue that the Bible is full of references to dinosaurs. Nineteenth-century English paleontologist Sir Richard Owen did not coin the word dinosaur (“terrible lizard”) until 1841, thus the King James Version erroneously substituted the word dragon for dinosaur. Had the word been coined prior to 1611, passages such as Isaiah 27:1 and Psalm 74:13 would reference dinosaurs instead of dragons. Or would they?

First, a quick look at passages cited by young-earth creationists is sufficient to recognize that they have been misused as pretexts for the notion that dinosaurs lived contemporaneously with humans. Isaiah 27 depicts the destruction of demonic nations that presume to frustrate the purposes of God. As such, God will destroy “Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea” (v. 1). Likewise, in Psalm 74, God crushes Leviathan—multiheaded monster of the sea—and promises the establishment of a new world order in which “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). To recast multiheaded demonic forces in the image of single-headed dinosaur fossils is singularly wrongheaded.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the motif of a sovereign God who rides the stormy clouds and destroys the multiheaded monster arising out of the chaotic seas is a shared ancient Near Eastern narrative appropriated by biblical writers as a means of arguing against the false gods of paganism. Such literary substitution is employed by the inspired biblical authors to underscore the reality that it is not Baal who rules supreme from Mount Saphon (in western Syria) but Yahweh the king of Mount Sinai who conquers the roiling habitat of the coiling serpent.

Finally, just as biblical evidence demonstrating that dinosaurs lived in the same time and space as humans is suspect, so too the extrabiblical evidence. As demonstrated elsewhere, footprints of humans together with dinosaurs in the Paluxy Riverbed of Glen Rose, Texas, have proven suspect, as have alleged fresh blood cells in the unfossilized remains of a T. rex (see “Do Recently Discovered T. Rex Bones Point to a Young Earth?” on page 140).

In sum, an objective reading of the biblical text is sufficient to demonstrate that dragons are not equivalent to dinosaurs. Abusing biblical truth is no small matter.

For further study, see “Is there Evidence That Humans and Dinosaurs Walked Together?” (p. 138); also “Do Recently Discovered T. Rex Bones Point to a Young Earth?” (p. 140).